Pyrite mirror

Xochicalco, Ancient Mexico, AD 700–900

Founding collection; 1884.70.19Founding collection; 1884.70.19This mirror has a hole in the back from which it was strung on a cord and hung around the neck. It was found at the site of the ancient city of Xochicalco, a pre-Columbian site in the present-day Mexican state of Morelo.

Xochicalco was founded after the fall of Teotihuacán in the 8th century and was destroyed by fire several centuries later. Its ruins reveal multicultural influences, including Aztec, Toltec, Zapotec, and Olmec elements. The Mayans, an older civilization further south in Yucatán, also made mirrors from pyrite. The manufacture and trade of polished pyrite ('fool's gold') mirrors was one of the defining traits of Mesoamerican cultures.

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